High Court confirms appointment of examiner to Limerick FC despite Revenue objection

High Court confirms appointment of examiner to Limerick FC despite Revenue objection

Mr Justice Tony O'Connor confirmed the appointment of an examiner to Limerick FC

THE High Court has confirmed the appointment of an examiner to League of Ireland side Limerick FC.

At a hearing this Friday, Mr Justice Tony O'Connor confirmed insolvency practitioner Conor Noone of Baker Tilly chartered accountants as examiner to Munster Football Club Limited, which trades as Limerick FC.

The company, represented by barrister Gary McCarthy instructed by solicitor Barry Lyons, had petitioned to the court to place the company in examinership, on the grounds that if certain steps were taken it could survive as a going concern.

The application was opposed by the Revenue Commissioners, which is a creditor of the company.

Represented by Arthur Cunningham BL, Revenue argued that the application for examinership should be refused on grounds including that the club is not commercially viable.

Revenue claimed there were issues regarding the club securing a licence to play in the league of Ireland and that it would not get a tax clearance certificate which it requires to get a licence.

Counsel also cited an ongoing investigation into alleged match-fixing by gardai, the fall in ticket sales, that the club's main sponsor had gone into liquidation, as other factors as to why the club should not be allowed enter examinership.

Revenue's claims were rejected by Mr McCarthy who said that an independent expert's report showed that the company's problems were capable of being solved if the examinership was allowed to proceed.

In his ruling, Mr Justice O'Connor said he was satisfied that the legal criteria had been fulfilled that would allow the court to confirm Mr Noone as examiner to the company.

The Judge said that he was taking into consideration contents of the Independent Expert’s report, which stated that while the company was clearly insolvent, it had a reasonable prospect of survival in the event of a successful examinership.

The judge also remitted the matter back to Limerick Circuit Court, given the size of the company.

Mr Noone, who was appointed examiner on an interim basis last week, has up to 100 days to put together a scheme of arrangement with the League of Ireland First Division side's creditors which, if approved by the Courts, would allow the company continue to trade.

Mr Noone, represented by Ross Gorman BL during Friday's hearing, will also continue to seek fresh investment in the club. 

Mr Gorman said there have been expressions of interest by potential investors in the club, which has debts of approximately €490,000.

He added that since his appointment Mr Noone has held talks with the Football Association of Ireland which, he said, has set out the criteria that must be met before the club could get a licence allowing it to compete in next season's league.

The court heard previously heard that in order to secure the club's future, company director and club chairman Pat O Sullivan is willing to hand over control of the football club to a new investor to ensure the continuity of the club into the future.

In seeking the protection of the court from its creditors the club said its financial difficulties are due to reasons including recent match-fixing allegations against certain of the club's players, payments of player's expenses.

The club cited its relegation, in November 2018, from the League of Ireland's Premier Division as another reason why it has gotten into difficulty.

The club's relations with the FAI and the body that represents professional players in the league the PFAI were also strained. 

In addition solidarity payments to the club from the Football Association of Ireland, and UEFA, which the club expected to receive at the start of the current season, have failed to materialise.

Other matters that impacted on the club include the threat of strike action by the club's players,  issues over the club's licence to play in the League of Ireland, its tenancy at the Markets Field Stadium in Limerick where the team plays its home games, declining attendances and the failure to attract sponsorship.

The matter will return before the courts in October.

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